17.10.14

Fresh from the earth: visiting a London "Pick Your Own" farm


Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.
Visiting a London "Pick Your Own" farm

There may not be a whole lot of fruit that grows in Britain (me and my friend from India can only dream of buying guavas) but let's give credit where credit is due: the strawberries and apples are amazing. I recently found the Abel & Cole Veg Box Companion cookbook on the Karma Shelf (as if the universe had responded to my desire to eat less meat) and read that up until the 1950s when cheaper imported apples showed up, there were around 2000 varieties of apple in the UK. Well, soon after complementing a British person for this as though they were personally responsible for the quality of the apples and strawberries, they suggested I go strawberry picking which was a completely new concept for me. This is not because I am South African but specifically because I am from Joburg where the surrounding country is dry and thorny, where school trips are to the cheetah park and caves with ancient rock-paintings, rather than to lush fruit fields like those kids from the Cape.

Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.
Strawberries at a London "Pick Your Own" farm
Pick Your Own farms (PYO as they're known on the street) give you a basket, let you loose in their fields, and let you pay by weight on exit. The catch is that all the PYOs I had seen are far out of London, in the middle of nowhere down long, rural roads (obviously) and renting a car is a faff.

Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.
Parkside Farm on the outskirts of London, a Pick our Own farm. Produce of the season.
I was so excited to discover a PYO in London I went that very same weekend. It's called Parkside Farm and it's out in zone 5 so you can still use your Oyster card to get to it. Note if you're going with kiddies, it is 1 mile from Gordon Hill station so be prepared for a short walk.

Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.
How cute is this map of different crops
They provide an adorable map of their different crops if you want to be strategic. The farm was really gorgeous and has not only fruit but vegetables too. I was really excited to see where all the crops come from and what they look like when they come out of the ground. I always grew up with a veggie patch in the garden but there are still so many crops I eat on a regular basis that I've never actually seen growing (I could not identify the leaves of a ginger plant for example). It's just nice to feel a bit more connected to your food.

Farmers overalls, coats and boots hung up for the day
Farm life
When you arrive you're given a combination of bags and baskets and if you're lucky you find a trolley too. Then you make your way around the farm and pick what you like. As tempting as it is, you're not supposed to eat in the field before you have paid.

Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.
Strawberry field!
The pride of Parkside is their table-top strawberries  which means you don't have to bend down to pick them. I can imagine this must be a pretty labour-saving agricultural innovation.

Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.
The pride of Parkside Farm is their table top strawberries which means you don't have to bend down to pick them. 
Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.
Strawberry blossom
The fields of fruit and veg were so idyllic I was definitely imagining Beatrix Potter's characters scurrying around, like Benjamin Bunny and Peter Rabbit.

Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.
Blackberries
There is a minimum spend of £3 per person which was easy for us to pass, in fact Mr Zissou picked nearly a kilogram of blackberries alone.

Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.
Blackberry picking

Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.
Blackberries


Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.
Blackberry picking
I haven't owned a backpack since I was a teenager but I've gotten much more use out of my Primark back-pack than I expected, it's just really nice to have your hands free on occasions like this, to grab, grab, grab!


Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.
Off to explore. Backpack from Primark.
I chose a casual, comfortable outfit for our day on the farm and finished it off with a silly grosgrain bow on my red top by Fever:

Outfit details: Boater hat: Asos Top: Fever Skirt: Topshop Bow: Johnny Loves Rosie Shoes: Vintage
Outfit details:
Boater hat: Asos
Top: Fever
Skirt: Topshop
Bow: Johnny Loves Rosie
Shoes: Vintage
I was looking for a pair of "nude" shoes for quite a while before finding these vintage beauties for a bargain price in Beacon's Closet in New York. They really keep your feet cool in summer too.

Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.
Vintage perforated leather shoes from Beacon's Closet in Williamsburg  
How amazing are these plums? They were purple with an amazing blue sheen on them which I've not seen on store-bought plums.

Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.
Glowing purple plums
It seemed like a huge waste to leave all these beauties on the floor to spoil but we had more than we could carry or eat.

Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.
These plums had an unreal purple glow to them
If I was dressed for the strawberries, then this visitor was definitely dressed for the plums!

Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.
Plum picker

Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.
Raspberries
I heart it:

Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.
Romantic raspberry
I was so proud of our haul and it really gave me a sense of the resources that go into bringing food to our table. After all the effort we went to to select and pick the produce ourselves we were extra careful to plan our meals thoughtfully to get the most out of our fresh ingredients and throw none of them away because of spoiling.

Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.
Our haul, each one lovingly picked : raspberries, chard, marrows, beetroot, blackberries, cucumbers,  spinach and onions.

We're also trying to limit our meat and fish consumption to just once per week, so all this veg came at a good time for us. I guess you could call us "weekday vegetarians" because we no longer have meat or most fish on our shopping list, but if we eat out with friends or go to a food festival on weekends we might eat meat. When we do, we really appreciate it and we view it now as a treat rather than as the norm. Even if we could afford to buy non-factory farmed meat from our butcher more often, for us that's not the point. The point is that there is just not enough space on earth for all the farm animals in the world to roam free because demand for meat is just too high. This demand is also taking a terrible toll on the environment, and we're privileged enough to be in a position to modify the way we consume. Of course we are all full of contradictions but this is just a step in our imperfect personal journey.

 
Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.
Beetroot straight from the earth
Just like any day-trip to the countryside, I'd highly recommend this as a mini-break for Londoners because it does wonders for your mental health, for me it's like the mental equivalent of a luxurious bath. I'm sure it would also be a fun activity for families judging by all the happy kids I saw tearing around. Be sure to check the crop calender when you plan your visit!

Parkside Farm "Pick Your Own" farm in London is a lovely day out for all ages, where you pay by weight and pick you own fresh produce, like strawberries, raspberries, plums, beetroot, onion and spinach.





11.8.14

DIY paper lantern hot air balloon

DIY hot air balloon from a paper lantern and a basket
In the shared laundry room of the apartment block where I live there is a shelf for unwanted goodies. I've mentioned it in many blog posts before and it's affectionately known as the Karma Shelf because you put things that you no longer need there, and pick up other people's unwanted loot. Needless to say I am a HUGE fan. I lie awake at night fantasising about what junk I might find the next day, that I can upcycle into something wonderful.

Examples of things I've found:  Moss, a sailor suit and a wig (all contributing to one Halloween costume). An unpainted garden gnome (blog post pending!). A giant plush toy snake (worn around my neck on a night on the town.) An inflatable (!) zimmer frame.

Recently I found a paper lantern, and then a few days later a little toiletries basket. Amongst all the other random bits I managed to link the two together in my mind for a hot air balloon project.

My bedroom
You won't be surprised to find that I have a stash of loose strings that I save from fancy gift wrap etc, so I had the perfect red and white string for this DIY. Also not surprising is that I have languishing rolls of washi tape for grand DIY plans that have never materialised (thank you Pinterest). This is how I made my hot air balloon:

You will need:

  • Round paper lantern
  • Small basket, about the same size as the base of the lantern. Alternatively cut off the base of a milk bottle?
  • String
  • Thread (for hanging, in the same colour as your ceiling, or clear fishing gut)
  • Washi/decorative tape


Paper lantern, basket, washi tape and string


Instructions:
  1. First make your balloon's mini-bunting by cutting a section of string and folding pieces of washi tape around the string so that the sticky sides close against each other. Cut these little rectangles into a point to form triangular bunting. Space these mini flags out evenly along the string. Attach your string of bunting to one side of the basket or all the way around.                                                                   
    Make bunting from washi tape
  2. Now to attach the basket to the balloon. Thread a string along the top of your basket and attach each corner to the base of the lantern. This step was easy given the type of basket I found. If you use another container like the base of a milk bottle then just pierce four holes in the "basket" and thread through there. Make sure that all four strings are the same length and that your basket hangs evenly and in the centre directly below the balloon.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                
    Attached the basket to the balloon with string                                                                                                                                           
  3. Stretch out and open up your lantern and see how the basket hangs. My basket was very lightweight and so the lantern didn't open up properly. I added some stones inside the basket so that it would really stretch the lantern open into a perfect globe.                                           
  4. Now that your lantern  is fully extended, you can apply decorative stripes to the "balloon". Using your roll of washi tape, attach the end to the inside of the base of the balloon. Stick it around the outside and then all the way up to the top. At the top leave a little extra before cutting the piece free; press this over the edge to the inside. The ends of the tape should be hidden on the inside. I followed the natural seems of my lantern with my tape, which is where the paper is glued together to make the globe. Apply the stripes of washi tape symmetrically and remember to keep the lantern fully open and extended.
  5. Attach some thread to the top of the balloon so that you can hang it up. It would also make a nice lampshade (used exactly like the lantern was intended) but I don't have any hanging lamps so it's just randomly flying above the bed.  
A hanging ceramic heart with our initials
I actually added some extra pizzazz in the form of a little heart that hangs under the balloon; it's full-on twee and I wrote our initials onto it. On this theme, here's a hot air balloon painting I bought at Chiswick car boot sale, it was only £10 or £15 which I think was steal:

Vintage hot air balloon painting from a car boot sale
Hot air balloon painting I found at a car boot sale
Vintage hot air balloon painting from a car boot sale
The ascent of Major Farquharson at Worcester
Hot air balloons are so lovely aren't they? I went with my family in a rainbow coloured one in South Africa, just lovely. My friend Roxanne who's even more of a fan of hot air balloons than me (she even goes to the Bristol Balloon Festival) saw the lantern balloon above my bed and it stirred up an old memory for her. She said that she thinks her mom made one of these for her childhood bedroom (#80sDIY), which might have triggered her lifelong love of them. Also, there was a family staying in our apartment while we were on holiday and their favourite part of the stay was this balloon because their baby REALLY loved it and would lie on the bed staring at it for ages. Maybe that baby will grow up to be a hot air balloon devotee too. 

Long-time readers of this blog may remember my old bedroom which was filled with mainly free stuff, even the bed. Here are some more details from my current bedroom at our new place, first this Rob Ryan picture above the bed. It was actually sold at a craft fair for £5 as wrapping paper, and since Rob Ryan himself was there, I asked him to sign it! The fairy lights are super cosy at bed time:

Signed Rob Ryan print on wall with fairy lights
I asked Rob Ryan to sign this print
The bird alarm clock was only £1 from another car boot sale because he is originally from Habitat but is actually missing a segment of his tail which is not at all noticeable. When the alarm goes off he tweets, rocks back and forth, turns his Robocop head from side to side and moves his beak, violently. I LOVE animatronics (I mean, Bubo the golden owl WAS the star of Clash of the Titans) and find it endlessly amusing. Mr Zissou finds it less amusing when it wakes him up in the morning. The copper polka dot pot is an old DIY project of mine which was featured on Design Sponge.

Habitat bird alarm clock with DIY copper polka dot planter and succulent
Animatronic alarm clock from Habitat, DIY planter. Hmmm, not sure why that number looks weird.

Toile du jouy pillowcase on bed
Toile du jouy, a perennial favourite. 
Alarm clack and space invaders
Alarm clock and space invader blocks


28.7.14

Biggest ever Ebay sale

For readers in the UK: I'm having my biggest ever Ebay sale right now! 20 items (mainly dresses, duh) so you can combine shipping; here's a teaser:

Ebay sale plus size fashion cute and retro
My biggest ever Ebay sale
Save me as a seller so you'll know about future sales.


21.6.14

Jewellery organisers from junk

Ball of string. Easy upcycled jewellery organisers (jewelry organizers) that you can make form everyday found objects give an alternative way to display jewellery.
Vintage ball of string and ceramic hand from a jumble sale to display jewellery.
One of the reasons I have so much jewellery is because it's so easy to buy online; you can trawl through Ebay for vintage bits without being burdened by the concerns that come with other wearables, like whether shoes will be uncomfortable or buttons on a shirt will gape. But a serious jewellery collection needs serious storage solutions, and having already bought many conventional jewellery stands I decided to look for alternatives. I think it's important to display your jewellery properly so that you actually wear it, because if you can't see it you're likely to forget about it, and if the thing you want is in a disgusting tangle of chains you're not likely to bother. So give it a try next time you're in a junk shop or jumble sale: look at everything through a "jewellery storage" lens.

Take this giant vintage ball of string which I bought for £1, which makes a pin/brooch stand. It's free standing and I just stab the pins straight in which is strangely satisfying. I imagine it must have come from some industrial or factory setting which is what first drew me to it. I just LOVE factories: the scale, the efficiency, the repetition, the automation, oh LORDY!

Vintage ball of string from a jumble sale to organise brooches and pins.
Another thing I love is depictions of hands in sculptures, paintings and jewellery. I think studying anatomy and dissecting hands reinforced how much I admire them as engineering wonders, and in addition they are so expressive, mystical, symbolic, unique and useful! In another blog post I must share my collection of hand-themed jewellery.


Ceramic palm reading hand model. Easy upcycled jewellery organisers (jewelry organizers) that you can make form everyday found objects give an alternative way to display jewellery.
Ceramic palm reading hand model from a jumble sale to display jewellery.
I also found this ceramic hand model at a jumble sale for a pound or two. It looks like a model for palm reading and I love the script and detailed technical drawing. I use it for hanging various pieces of bling on.

Then there is a more traditional earring organiser in a cheap black plastic design. It seems that a few years ago a whole bunch of copies of an Anna Sui design came out in black plastic including combs, mirrors, make-up cases and boxes, and this is one such item. Small earrings and studs are so easy to lose it really is important to keep them organised.

Earring stand on a glass cake stand. Easy upcycled jewellery organisers (jewelry organizers) that you can make form everyday found objects give an alternative way to display jewellery.
Earring stand on a glass cake stand. 
Ball of string and ceramic hand to display jewellery. Easy upcycled jewellery organisers (jewelry organizers) that you can make form everyday found objects give an alternative way to display jewellery.
Get creative about ways to store jewellery and keep an open mind when trawling though jumble sales.


7.5.14

DIY scrap-paper notebooks


Easy DIY scrap paper book binding with the 5 hole pamphlet stitch. Great use for recycling cute, retro paper to make unique gifts. No specialist tools necessary.
Add caption

You'll be surprised by how easy it is to make your own note books from bits of scrap paper, and you don't really need any special tools. Skinny notebooks are great for travelling, when you don't want to be weighed down, and these make for really sweet personalised gifts (which is what mine ended up as). You can make these entirely out of recycled paper and/or use up all the cute scraps and clippings you've been hoarding.

Easy DIY scrap paper book binding with the 5 hole pamphlet stitch. Great use for recycling cute, retro paper to make unique gifts. No specialist tools necessary.

The key to these notebooks is that because they have relatively few pages they are easy enough to bind using the very simple "pamphlet stitch" (details later). So that they don't look out of proportion and really tall and skinny, I made these as A6 size when closed, which means they open up to be A5. The basic idea is to use card for the outer cover, and normal paper on the inside, which you can intersperse with decorative pages.


Tools and materials needed:


If you feel like spoiling yourself to some new craft supplies or reckon you'll be making loads of these then you can buy the proper tools. Alternatively, if you're like me and  just want to try it once you can do it with cheapo makeshift tools which I'll list here.

 For each book:

  1. 1 A5 piece of card for the outside cover
  2. 5-7 sheets of A4 paper (more if you use thin paper, less for thick)
  3. Binder's awl (or drawing pin/kebab skewer or anything spiky for piercing the paper for binding)
  4. Blunt tip book binding needle (or any fat, sturdy needle like an embroidery needle)
  5. French Linen thread (this is a sort of waxy, stiff white thread; I reckon you could replace this with any thick thread like embroidery thread.)
  6. Scissors
  7. Stanley knife/scalpel
  8. Steel ruler (or other ruler #yolo)


Instructions:


1. First gather your cover card (A5) and cut your 5 A4 papers in half so that they are all A5. These will all be folded in half when they are bound resulting in a book that is A6 with about 20 pages. You can add a few more pages in or just as easily make a bigger book too.

Now gather your decorative paper and think about where it will be placed in the book. I think it's quite nice to have a fancy decorative first and last page, and maybe a colourful middle page.

I have a hard time throwing out pretty paper and so I have piles of envelopes, product labels and vintage ephemera which could finally be put to use. For the decorative pages I used some washi tape, doilies and wrapping paper, and vintage sheet music, stamps and children's book pages. For the plain, writing pages, I used paper from an exercise book with ruled squares on it. I call it Maths Paper because we used it exclusively for maths throughout primary school, and so it has quite retro, nostalgic look to me.

Easy DIY scrap paper book binding with the 5 hole pamphlet stitch. Great use for recycling cute, retro paper to make unique gifts. No specialist tools necessary.

2. Once you've trimmed all your pages to size, stack them and fold the stack in half, creating your book.

Easy DIY scrap paper book binding with the 5 hole pamphlet stitch. Great use for recycling cute, retro paper to make unique gifts. No specialist tools necessary.

3. Now to bind the stack of pages, begin by making 5 evenly spaced marks in the central fold to indicate where the stitches will be. Begin by making a pencil dot in the middle and then two dots on either side of it:

Easy DIY scrap paper book binding with the 5 hole pamphlet stitch. Great use for recycling cute, retro paper to make unique gifts. No specialist tools necessary.

4. Next is the tricky party, which is piercing your pages at each of the dots so that you can thread your thread through. If you have a professional awl this will be very quick. If you're using a drawing pin like me you just have to have a little more patience and pierce fewer pages at a time. It isn't that much work considering how few pages there are.

Easy DIY scrap paper book binding with the 5 hole pamphlet stitch. Great use for recycling cute, retro paper to make unique gifts. No specialist tools necessary.

5. Once your holes have been made in the spine you can begin stitching the stack of pages together. I found this really satisfying. Thread your needle but don't tie a knot, just leave a little tail and hold onto it as you go. Start at the central hole and push your needle from the inside out, then follow this guide below using only the 5 holes you've already made. You should end coming back into the central hole, and now you can neatly tie both ends of the thread together, possibly encasing the the third thread that runs over there. I think it looks neatest to have the knot on the inside so make sure to start and end on the inside.

Easy DIY scrap paper book binding with the 5 hole pamphlet stitch. Great use for recycling cute, retro paper to make unique gifts. No specialist tools necessary.


After sewing you should have 4 neat segments of thread holding it all together, with no overlaps. Clever hey?

Easy DIY scrap paper book binding with the 5 hole pamphlet stitch. Great use for recycling cute, retro paper to make unique gifts. No specialist tools necessary.

6. Bend your bound book closed and flatten it out as much as possible. Now it's time to neaten up the edges by cutting off any bits that are sticking out, and making sure that all the pages line up. In theory you could do this step with scissors, but a sharp scalpel and ruler will give it a much cleaner finish. Having a metal ruler helps to guide our scalpel here because you can cut into a plastic ruler, as does having some kind of cutting board or protective surface underneath so you don't have to worry about ruining your table.

Easy DIY scrap paper book binding with the 5 hole pamphlet stitch. Great use for recycling cute, retro paper to make unique gifts. No specialist tools necessary.

7. All that's left to do is add decorative touches like washi tape and little stamps. Done!

Easy DIY scrap paper book binding with the 5 hole pamphlet stitch. Great use for recycling cute, retro paper to make unique gifts. No specialist tools necessary.
Book cover made of card, vintage text, grey-striped washi tape, bird wrapping paper and an old stamp. 
Easy DIY scrap paper book binding with the 5 hole pamphlet stitch. Great use for recycling cute, retro paper to make unique gifts. No specialist tools necessary.
Inside cover of the book: blue card, bird wrapping paper, paper doily, vintage bird stamps.
Easy DIY scrap paper book binding with the 5 hole pamphlet stitch. Great use for recycling cute, retro paper to make unique gifts. No specialist tools necessary.
More book details like gold-striped washi tape and a  glittery paper flower cutout.
Easy DIY scrap paper book binding with the 5 hole pamphlet stitch. Great use for recycling cute, retro paper to make unique gifts. No specialist tools necessary.
Book cover made of blue card, vintage book illustration, red-patterned washi tape and cut out vintage text, ransom-note style.
Easy DIY scrap paper book binding with the 5 hole pamphlet stitch. Great use for recycling cute, retro paper to make unique gifts. No specialist tools necessary.
Inner cover with card, paper doily, striped washi tape and vintage illustration page.
Easy DIY scrap paper book binding with the 5 hole pamphlet stitch. Great use for recycling cute, retro paper to make unique gifts. No specialist tools necessary.
Some random sentences from the vintage book
Easy DIY scrap paper book binding with the 5 hole pamphlet stitch. Great use for recycling cute, retro paper to make unique gifts. No specialist tools necessary.
Back covers of the books
Surprisingly easy right? And amazing that you don't really need any specialist tools. There are plenty more tutorials about book-binding on the web if you want to find out more; this one from Design Sponge shows you the professional tools and also teaches you all the proper terminology and lingo.

PS. How do you like my new blog header and doodle:

I literally decided I wanted a change, scribbled it into Mr Zissou's iPad and had it up within 30 minutes (#yolo). See that's me on my bike wielding my craft scissors.